I am a high functioning autistic woman and I recently went to a meet up for other autistic people and met a guy. I let him add me on facebook and we talked a little bit and he tried to ask me out almost immediately which I rejected by saying I didn't want a relationship. We went back to having a fairly normal conversation after that, but he started repeatedly telling me I'm attractive and it's making me really uncomfortable. I'm starting to get really scared and I don't know how to respond. I have no experience with dating.

I feel like I just don't want to be friends with this guy or talk to him anymore. I don't think he has many friends, but we don't really have a lot in common except our autism. I don't want to crush this poor guy by just saying he's scaring me so I can't talk to him anymore so I don't know how to respond.

Is there a way that I can politely reject him while minimally hurting him?

up vote 60 down vote accepted

Disclaimer: I am also autistic (high functioning).


It sounds like you are a bit higher functioning than the person you describe, which may be part of the problem. As you know, we have a spectrum disorder which is diagnosed by meeting criteria from several categories and to varying degrees.

As you've learned, just having the autism in common doesn't mean you have much else in common, and sometimes even the flavors of autism don't jibe well.

Given that, the problem sounds like he is mistaking social cues. If you want to maintain a friendship with this person, be very direct and say

"Please don't comment on my appearance, it's not appropriate and it makes me uncomfortable."

Be direct, be firm and leave no room for ambiguity. He may have it in his head that he's complimenting you and may not be able to judge the social context. I know that I run into problems myself with the connotations of words and can say inappropriate things myself, so I can see how someone could get into this innocently.

Your consideration for his feelings is admirable, BTW.

If you just don't want to be friends with this person any longer try something like:

Dave, I'm sorry but outside of the autism, I just don't have anything in common with you. I just don't see any connection, even at a friend level.

See how that works. If he still doesn't get it, then you may have to make it a bit stronger.

Dave, you're a good person, and I don't have anything against you, but I do not want to be friends with you.

Then let it rest.

If he still persists, then you may need to take a stronger stand, and even block him from social media if need be, but use the minimum force you can.


TLDR:

  • SET CLEAR BOUNDARIES (he may not understand).
  • State clearly your intentions.
  • Take progressively strong measures.
  • Let him know that he's making you feel uncomfortable, and why.
  • 16
    "Dave, you're a good person, and I don't have anything against you, but I do not want to be friends with you.". I think leave off the "you're a good person". It doesn't really add anything, and is more likely to be misinterpreted. – user1751825 Aug 17 at 5:04
  • 3
    @user1751825 it was clear goal of the OP to spare his feelings. What you suggest would be far too harsh – Don Thermidor_Lobster Mobster Aug 17 at 13:25
  • 9
    Adding "you're a good person" doesn't make it less harsh. It just makes it more ambiguous. Also we don't have enough information to know if he's a good person. All we know is that he makes the OP uncomfortable, and that she's starting to get really scared because of his unwanted advances. Adding unnecessary and unwarranted compliments may have the undesirable result of making him think that on some level she does in fact like him. She apparently feels some sympathy for him, but this doesn't necessarily mean she thinks he's a good person. – user1751825 Aug 17 at 13:31
  • 3
    As I mentioned in the comment, I think it would ultimately be better to just leave out the "you're a good person". Otherwise I think this sounds fine. My reasoning is that if she compliments him, he may interpret this as meaning she likes him. It may leave him hoping she'll change her mind. – user1751825 Aug 17 at 15:25
  • 3
    Being rejected is never easy or pleasant. However she words her response, he's not going to be happy about it. – user1751825 Aug 17 at 15:29

Since the guy is autistic, he may not understand what's wrong in this behavior. However, intentional or not, I believe the behavior itself could still feels like harassment for you. I am in no way suggesting that you need to tell the guy this, or act on it in any way, e.g. report it. In my opinion, it's perfectly acceptable for you just to be completely up front with him:

You are making me uncomfortable, and you need to stop now. I gave you my answer and it's not going to change.

Also remember that even if you put lots of effort into being nice and respectful, you cannot control whether he feels hurt or upset. It is absolutely not your responsibility to protect him or go out of your way to be nice to him if you are polite and respectful.

You might also consider blocking him on Facebook.

Good luck :)

What I would recommend...

Reiterate to him that you do not want to pursue a relationship with him. Be polite, but direct. Don't apologize, or feel as though you need to justify yourself. You have an absolute right to not want a relationship, and you're under no obligation to provide a reason.

While this may seem harsh. Being direct helps avoid any confusion, and let's him know that this is your decision, and it is final.

If he doesn't accept this, and continues to try to contact you, I'd suggest you just stop responding.

Purely based on what you've explained in your question, I'm not sure this is exactly a harassment situation. At least not yet. However I would certainly suggest you retain any and all correspondence from this person, just in case, particularly if it's offensive. If you get abusive emails or phone messages from him, don't just delete them. If his behaviour does become problematic enough that you need to escalate to law enforcement, you will need evidence to support your claims that you're being harassed.

I hope this helps.

The biggest problem that an autistic person has is to know intuitively what another person's feelings are. That can be overcome to some degree by training ("tears come out of a person's eyes then the person is likely to be sad, unless they are cutting onions"), but how well that works is different from person to person. So if you rely on this young man to realise from your behaviour that you don't want to meet him, that is likely not to work.

The best way to part ways is to express yourself as clear as possible. Say to him that you will not meet him again, that you will not be friends with him, that there will never be a relationship between you. Clearly stated facts, no judgment of him, but also nothing to water the statement down.

He is autistic. So you want to give a message that an autistic person understands. This message achieves this, so you achieve your goal for yourself, to get rid of this person.

Trying not to hurt the person is a noble goal (and is very much more important than being polite - being polite can hurt people and often does). Will this hurt the person? To the degree that he doesn't achieve his goal to be with you, and eventually have a relationship with you, it will hurt, and that is unavoidable. You could make it less hurtful in the very short term ("we can still be friends"), but that just makes it worse in the long term. For both of you.

The biggest advantage of an autistic person is rational thought. So what your statement means to him is that he wanted a relationship, but he won't get one, so no need to waste his time with you. Other people can be highly irrational, and might react badly to this strict approach. So don't use this approach with the wrong person.

I think there is no need to mention that you are getting scared, because that would be hurtful, without helping your case.

Your Answer

 

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.